New Testament Bible Class

What do Lutherans believe? By Pastor Alan Rosnau.

An “easy read” of deep thoughts about Lutheran doctrine by Pastor Alan Rosnau.

From the desk of Alan P. Rosnau,

Pastor of Outreach Ministry

 

“WHAT DO YOU LUTHERANS BELIEVE, ANYWAY?”

 

June 25 is a date which may not carry any particular significance for you personally (unless it happens to be your birthday or wedding anniversary), but in fact June 25 is an extremely important date for Lutherans.  Some would suggest that June 25 is an even more appropriate date than October 31 for remembering the Reformation. 

On June 25, 1530, Lutheran leaders in Germany presented the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V at a meeting in the town of Augsburg.  This written document is a clear, concise statement of what Lutherans believe on various matters of Christian doctrine.  At a time when many wondered exactly what Martin Luther and his supporters stood for, the Augsburg Confession provided the much-needed clarification.  It immediately achieved premier importance as a public declaration of faith.  Fifty years later, when the Book of Concord was drawn up, the Augsburg Confession was included as the principal Lutheran confessional statement.*

By now you may be asking, “What does all this have to do with Outreach Ministry, Pastor Rosnau?”  Well, if it hasn’t happened to you yet, my guess is that sooner or later someone is going to ask you, “What do you Lutherans believe, anyway?” Or, “Do Lutheran teachings differ from those of other Protestant churches?”  What would you say?  How would you summarize Lutheran teachings?  What is unique about Lutheranism?  Would you be prepared to say anything, or would you conclude that it’s too difficult to explain and therefore pass up the opportunity to help the person understand your beliefs?

As your Pastor of Outreach Ministry, I want to assist you in your Christian task of witnessing for Jesus Christ.  I want to encourage you to intentionally prepare yourself to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15).  That includes being able to answer the question, “What do you Lutherans believe, anyway?” 

So, what would you say to that question, especially if you only had a few minutes to explain?  I have found it helpful to keep in mind the three key phrases which arose during the Reformation era:  Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Scripture Alone.  These phrases together form a handy outline from which to address people’s questions.  A presentation might go something like this:

    GRACE ALONE:  Lutherans believe that all people have the same basic problem — they are born sinful and need a Savior (someone outside of themselves to remove their sin and guilt and thereby spare them from God’s punishment).  It is by God’s GRACE alone (His undeserved love for us) that He saves us from the punishment of hell.  Out of grace God gave His Son to die for us on the cross.  Out of grace God declared the world “not guilty” in His sight.  Heaven is a free gift.  No one can earn salvation by good works.  It all depends on God’s grace in Jesus Christ who was condemned in our place, died and rose again.  God saves us by His GRACE ALONE.  God’s grace comes to us through special means:  The Gospel Message, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

     FAITH ALONE:  While Jesus died for the whole world, only those who believe that Jesus died and rose for them have the forgiveness of sin and the assurance of salvation.  The Holy Spirit creates this saving FAITH in people’s hearts through Baptism and the Gospel message.  Since faith is God’s doing and is not dependent on human reasoning ability, infants are able to have saving faith and thus are baptized.  FAITH ALONE is what grasps all that God offers us:  forgiveness, life and salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Since one’s faith can dwindle and even die out if neglected, Christians are to regularly read and hear God’s Word and partake of the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of one’s faith.  In the Lord’s Supper we receive the real Body and Blood of Jesus in, with, and under the Bread and Wine for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith.

     SCRIPTURE ALONE:  We learn of God’s saving grace in the Holy Scriptures.  The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.  It is the only authority, source and standard of spiritual truth and moral behavior.  The two major teachings in Scripture are “Law” and “Gospel.”  The Law shows us our sin and condemns us.  It tells us how we ought to live.  The Gospel shows us our loving Savior who forgives our sin and empowers us to live God-pleasing lives in response to His love.  The primary concern in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, is God’s plan in Jesus Christ to save people from eternal death.  Thus, Lutherans seek to proclaim the Gospel in its truth and purity, for it alone is the “power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16).

     I hope this outline is helpful to you in preparing yourself to answer questions about what it means to be Lutheran.  In the spirit of our Lutheran forefathers who first presented the Augsburg Confession, I encourage you to read and study further our great Lutheran Confessional writings, that you might be even better prepared to profess your faith to others.  Perhaps this June 25 would be a good date on which to begin your summer reading of an important work:  The Augsburg Confession.

 

* The Book of Concord contains ten confessional documents or statements of what Lutherans believe concerning various matters of faith.  They are:  The Apostles’ Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Athanasian Creed, The Augsburg Confession, The Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession,    The Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, The Small Catechism, The Large Catechism, and The Formula of Concord.  If you would like to become more familiar with the Lutheran Confessions, I encourage you to borrow a copy of the Book of Concord from the church library or purchase your own copy from Concordia Publishing House (1-800-325-3040 or order online at http://www.cph.org).  I suggest the following edition:  Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions—A Readers Edition of the Book of Concord, 2nd Edition, Paul T. McCain, General Editor.  Cost:  $29.99

 

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